Player safety remains top priority for union

Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:13pm EST
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By Steve Ginsburg

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The National Football League (NFL) players union has a number of ongoing disputes with the league but player safety is the top priority, Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said on Thursday.

Smith, head of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), cited the union's recent $100 million grant to Harvard University for a study on a range of health problems, from brain damage to heart conditions.

He called the study "transformational, that will move beyond just a conversation about safety that focuses on what the next fine is going to be, what the next hit looked like, whether or not there is going to be a kick-off.

"The issue of safety in the National Football League is a bigger issue that the myopic issues that we sometimes are forced to talk about," he said.

In his annual "state of the union," Smith also vowed to keep the concussion issue front-and-center, while making sure the union knows who is treating its players.

The NFL should have a neutral "chief safety officer," to oversee the league's policies, he said.

Smith, speaking to reporters ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl, said the union is continuing to press the league for independent sideline concussion experts at every game.

He said the league's agreement with the union on how to treat concussions during a game are sometimes skirted.   Continued...